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Saturday, October 25, 1997


Former Tory minister criticises single currency dithering

Brittan "Credibility problem"

The Vice-President of the European Commission, Sir Leon Brittan, says he's dismayed by the attitude of both the Labour and the Conservative parties to the single European currency.

He was responding to Thursday's decision by the Conservative Shadow Cabinet to fight the next election campaigning against British involvement, and to the recent confusion on Labour's policy.

Sir Leon said the two parties seem to be trying to outdo each other in their opposition to monetary union and as a result are damaging Britain's credibility in Europe. "I think people are very confused about the government's position," Sir Leon said, "there's been briefing first of all that we were going to go in quickly, and then no, not in the next parliament, and now perhaps it won't be quite as rigid as that.

"So inevitably I think that has damaged credibility. I very much hope that when the government states its definitive position it will not rule out joining during the course of this parliament because I think events are moving too fast for that to be wise."

The Liberal Democrats have demanded the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown, gives a statement to the House of Commons on Monday to clear up the recent "shambolic confusion" over the single European currency.

Party treasury spokesman Malcolm Bruce said "In the last few weeks the Government seems to have been spinning three different policies on the single currency, and the result has been instability on the financial markets, uncertainty for business and damage to the credibility of Britain's economic policy."

The Conservative leader William Hague has tried to nullify differences of opinion in his party over Europe by getting the shadow cabinet to agree to a policy to take them through the next election.

But not all Tories are happy with the move. Kenneth Clarke, the former chancellor said it was "unwise to revisit this area" and prominent backbencher Peter Temple-Morris says he will not go along with the policy.

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